Kidney recipient hopes for artificial organ

12:00 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015 Local

Dialysis is supposed to be a relatively short-term treatment for people with serious kidney disease. Juliana Casey, 24, has been trying to wrest control of her life from the illness since she was 11. As of November, she’ll have been on and off dialysis, which is both live-saving and life-shortening, for a decade.

As a Round Rock teenager, she received a donor kidney on Good Friday in 2010 but she is a poor candidate for a second because, among myriad complications, her antibodies are excessively built up and would attack a new organ. We brought you her story in November of that year.

These days she’s banking her hopes on an artificial kidney and helping The Kidney Project, which is working with the federal Food and Drug Administration to fast-track human testing. Still, those trials won’t happen until 2017 at the earliest, and that’s assuming there’s sufficient funding, according to Casey’s mom, Kathy.

Casey is also struggling with end-stage renal disease.

“Today is my day off dialysis so I actually feel pretty good,” said Casey. “If you ask me how I feel on dialysis day, it’s pretty crummy. Just really, really drained.”

Her crowdfunding campaign has raised almost $45,000 toward a goal of at least $3 million per year that researchers at the University of California San Francisco’s Kidney Project are aiming for.

“If they don’t have the funding, they can’t do it,” she said. “The science is there. They know how to do it.”

Casey, who describes herself as “kind of a hardcore Roman Catholic,” knows that if the artificial organs make their way into people, that development might not be in time for her. But she’s kind of OK with that.

“Maybe God wants me to put this in motion so the world has an opportunity to save lives,” she said. “That would be satisfaction on my part. If God has big plans for me, that’s pretty big, just to play a part of it. I may not get the kidney but I may have gotten the ball rolling.”

Then again, she’s been lucky so far.

“I’m technically 70 in dialysis years,” Casey said. “It’s a little crazy, but I always beat the odds.”